Monday, 21 December 2009

Silent Night...But Busy Night for the Inn Keeper

Once upon a time, two thousand years ago, a certain business tycoon and his wife decided to turn their humble home into an Inn. Perhaps they wanted to make a few pennies or maybe they realised it was time they made use of empty space left behind by their absent and older children. Unfortunately, business was poor and the long-awaited full occupancy of their inn would keep them waiting just a little longer.

One day, this all changed very suddenly with the Government’s call for an immediate census. It seemed luck was finally on their side! Together, the eagerly anticipated the mass influx of guests who would soon travel hundreds of miles to get themselves registered in their hometown. What the Inn-keeper and his wife had not anticipated, however, was the exceptionally bitter cold and harsh winter that year which had left many desperate for a room, even if it meant sharing.

On one particularly cold and busy day, the Inn-Keeper and his wife would experience a very late night indeed. The pub was full and orders for drinks kept coming. Residents, as well as travelling passers-by trying to down one more beer for the road, kept the Inn-Keeper’s wife occupied until late into the night. Desperate to lock up and end their prolonged shift, the couple eventually managed to push out the last drunkard and finally went to bed.

However, this would not be the end of their hectic day. The travellers, all eager to find a warm, cosy bed, continued to pour in with their donkeys and their children and their luggage. Slightly overwhelmed with his flourishing business, the inn-keeper got to work on a sign which read ‘FULL. NO ROOM IN THE INN’ and returned to his own warm, cosy bed. Just as their eyes were shutting and their sleep deepening, the couple heard loud and desperate knocks on their door. The inn-keeper instinctively ignored the banging and waited for it to stop. However, the knocking became louder and louder to the point where the inn-keeper could ignore it no more.
Afraid that this unwanted visitor would wake the guests up, he briskly ran down the stairs and upon opening the door witnessed an unexpected sight. He ran his eyes up and down the bulky-looking man named Joseph and immediately decided that this man, whoever he was, certainly needed a shave. A dim lamp in the frosty, dark background revealed that this man also had a donkey and that on this donkey lay a visibly tired, but heavily pregnant lady.

With a large lump beginning to form in his throat, the inn-keeper hesitantly pointed at his well-decorated sign hanging at a slightly odd angle but nevertheless clearly visible to all. But as he lifted his finger, he noticed Joseph’s frantic gaze towards the sign and back down to his wife, Mary, who was now breathing very heavily. She looked into the inn-keeper’s eyes and his heart melted on that cold, wintry night. He knew he had to help these people. Suddenly feeling ashamed, he decided that he could not turn them away. However, the inn-keeper soon realised that this decision would bring many more questions and no clear solutions. With no spare rooms, where would he put this couple? What would he feed their donkey? How would he explain this to his wife? In that moment, as if instinctively, the donkey led Mary and Joseph into the barn having smelt fresh hay. Well, it was warmer in there, even if it was a bit smelly, thought the inn-keeper. He was sure the stable would provide some shelter that was comfortable enough for Mary and Joseph.

The warm glow on Joseph’s face was enough to show the Inn Keeper his gratitude. Upon discovering that Mary’s waters had broken, the inn-keeper ran down the paved street, bringing back with him the local village midwife. After shaking hands with Joseph once more, the inn-keeper finally returned to his snoring wife and went back to sleep in a lighter mood. Just as his eyes were shutting and his sleep deepening, the inn-keeper heard a louder and even more desperate knock on the door. The inn-keeper instinctively ignored the banging and waited for it to stop. However, the knocking became louder and louder to the point where the inn-keeper could ignore it no more.

Reluctantly but fearful that the other guests would surely wake up this time, he got out of bed and opened the front door to find shepherds. He ran his eyes up and down the group, deciding that this lot certainly needed a shower. As the inn-keeper furiously lifted a finger towards the sign on the door, the Shepherds stopped him before he could speak. The leading shepherd explained how a host of angels had appeared and told them the good news about the baby Jesus who could be found inside that very inn. The Inn Keeper scratched his head briefly before remembering the unshaven husband, his pregnant wife and their donkey. He led the shepherds to the barn where they all saw that indeed Mary had a baby boy named Jesus in her arms. Bowing down, the Shepherds praised and worshipped God for the baby. Watching them were the proud parents, Mary and Joseph, the inn-keeper and his wife who had now appeared on to the scene. The leading shepherd took the baby in his arms and standing still, took in the moment. He leaned in to kiss the baby and was suddenly interrupted by the inn-keeper’s wife who, now wide awake, protested in the fear of any potential infection of the baby Jesus.

During the early hours of the morning the inn-keeper and his wife finally returned to bed in a much lighter mood. Just as his eyes were shutting and his sleep deepening, the inn-keeper’s wife began to nudge her husband desperately. He instinctively ignored this additional disturbance to his sleep and waited patiently, hoping it would stop. However, the nudging became even more persistent to the point where he could ignore his wife no more. What was it now, he wondered?
“That little boy looks nothing like his father. Do you think that woman cheated on her husband”? Before Joseph had thought of a response, a bright light appeared and shone right into their bedroom window. Half afraid of the guests complaining and half wondering where the light was coming from, the inn-keeper and his wife got out of bed again. Upon opening the front door, they found three strange-looking men conspicuously dressed in eastern attire. As the inn-keeper, now aggravated, furiously called out to them and began to lift a finger towards the sign on the door, the three men stopped him before he could speak. They recalled how they had been following a star from the East. A star that they believed was a symbol of birth of Christ. Looking up into the dark, winter sky, the inn-keeper’s wife let out a gasp when they discovered that the bright light hung directly above their barn. The inn-keeper and his wife led the men to the barn and watched in wonder and in awe as the three men lay expensive gifts by the baby before leaving in the same dignified manner that they had appeared.

Returning to their bedroom more puzzled than ever, the couple made a conscious effort to fall asleep. However, they eyes would not shut and their sleep would not deepen. A series of questions ran through their minds. Who was this baby? Could he really be the messiah? How was it possible that none of the lodgers in the inn had been disturbed by the endless knocking, running up and down the stairs and the sounds of the three men’s camels? Left, with many more questions than answers, the inn-keeper and his wife instinctively got out of bed again early in the morning to resume business as normal.

This is the Christmas story. It tells us of the humbleness of God and that he appears to us in very extraordinary circumstances. Who would have thought that Jesus Christ, the son of God, would be born in a manger inside a village barn, surrounded by animals and located behind a local pub in an Inn? On that cold, wintry night, the inn-keeper and his wife not only received a record amount of guests but they received and hosted the son of God.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us remember and pray for our brothers and sisters in Karonga, Malawi who are in dire need of assistance as a result of two massive earthquakes during the month of December. Let us pray that they should not forget that it is Christmas.

Merry Christmas from Mkandawires in Watford, UK
Watipaso, Francisca, Mopani, Vinjeru, Watipaso Jnr and Sambiro

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Throwing the Baby out with the Bath Water:

Throwing the Baby out with the Bath Water:
Malawi School Closure

Come December 7 2009, there might be chaos and panic amongst thousands of Malawian families. The day marks the opening of new school calendar year and some parents have found out that their children have no school. What is the reason? The Ministry of Education closed down a number of private schools in Malawi that had been found as not in shape to operate as private schools. The blame game starts. Is it Bingu? Is it Bakili? Is it Kamuzu? Is it Mzuzu Corner? Is it Diaspora rhetoric? Well, I would blame Malawi and Malawians and let us all stand and be counted to resolve the challenge.

Well, let us start from why private schools mushroomed. First with population growth, more schools were needed. Second, with free primary education introduced in 1994, even more schools and teachers were needed. The 1994 policy of free education produced a wonderful opportunity for new line of business. Never before had an opportunity arisen to commercialise education. Business in many parts of the world including Malawi is copy-cat. Thus private education movement was born. Former night clubs and taverns, Crop warehouses, private homes and shops overnight became schools in urban and semi urban areas. Those audacious enough built new structures.

Perhaps what was not questioned was the capacity available to run and manage these schools, the health and safety of the structures and the education standards. 15 years later, Government decides that the cancer has to be stopped from spreading and rightly so. Perhaps many of our young persons who joined education stream in mid 1990s have had their future destroyed because of poor education foundation. Perhaps most private school owners paid more attention to their rightful need for profit and neglected the services being provided. Conceivably the regulatory regime was not ready to manage the new industry. The cancer therefore has to be stopped from spreading.

Stopping the cancer from spreading is not easy as we all know. If Doctors decided that the best way to relieve cancer patients is just to take away their lives, everyone will scream, Murderers! I believe there is a better way of stopping the cancer from spreading. Here are a few thoughts. The first step is to set minimum standards of what an education facility should have, which I believe the Ministry has done. This should set standards for facilities, qualification of teachers, curriculum, pupil-teacher ratio, health and safety etc. The second step is to benchmark all education facilities against these standards. The third step is to decide which of the education facilities could be improved with owners’ investment, which ones could be improved with Government intervention and which ones are beyond redemption.

For the facilities that require investment (either public or private), a discussion/negotiations should be held with owners. The Government should negotiate for credit facilities (soft loans) to support the investment requirements and Government should be party to the loan agreement to ensure the resources are used for the intended purpose. The Government could also introduce mobile training for the unqualified teachers and school managers.

For those that are beyond redemption a further thought should be taken regarding what should happen to the students when the facility is closed. This is important as education is a right and to have thousands of children out of school and no one is fending for them is inhuman and criminal. A similar consideration should be given to the other two categories. It is most likely that the existing Government education facilities cannot take over all the pupils and students that are out of schools as a result of closure.

If such consideration had been given, perhaps some schools could have been saved through a public-private sector or private-private partnerships and quick investment could have been made.

What is clear is that in throwing out the dirty bath water, the Government has thrown out the baby as well and innocent children will in the next months be denied the right to education.

For transparency and as way forward, The Ministry of Education should publish the School Closure Report so that parents, students and interested public may know the reasons for closure of each facility and what recommendations have been made for the owners to redress. Perhaps certain schools could be redeemed by communities that have been affected.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

If I was a Country called Malawi......

Statistics and Tertiary Education

A guy called Mark Twain claimed that Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”. With that in mind, I browsed through the education statistics documented by UNESCO. The statistics provide very elaborate information that I am sure countries use to determine public policy as well as public expenditure. For example, the statistics ranks the various countries in different categories and policy makers can learn best practices from countries that are doing well and successful. Statistics however, may not tell the whole story. Aaron Levenstein once said, “Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” One needs to go beyond the statistics and look at the impact on the ground. But for now, here are the statistics:


Malawi is ranked last in the world (No. 150) together with Vanuatu. Malawi’s total tertiary enrolment rate is 0.3% (about 4,500 students). Compare this with Burundi (12,000) Rwanda (20,000); Zambia 25,000; Zimbabwe (56,000); Uganda (74,000); Libya (375,000).

Not encouraging. I then went to the next table. I was excited when I saw Malawi right at the top! Number 2! Yes, Malawi ranks second in the world (Vanuatu is ranked first) in terms of public spending per student at tertiary level. Tertiary education gets 18% out of the education budget and with this Malawi spends $1,492 per student (MK208000). Is this good news? Well if you spend so much money on a small fraction of your population, when same money can be spread to more people, it is not good news. The lowest ranked on the chart, is Brunei that spends US$8.5 per student. Namibia spends US$147 and South Africa, US$61.

For argument’s sake, let us assume Malawi adopts best practices and reduces public spending per student at tertiary level to US$500 per student. With the same budget, we could easily triple the enrolment from 4500 to 13,500 students. If we learnt from Zambia who, allocate US$330 per student per year from public coffers, we could increase the number of students to 22,000! Is this rocket science? Talking about budgets, a guy called Russell Lewis tells the following story:

“Give us a copper Guv," said the beggar to the Treasury statistician when he waylaid him in Parliament square. "I haven't eaten for three days."
"Ah," said the statistician, "And how does that compare with the same period last year?"


Vocational education has never been given the priority it deserves in Malawi. Compare this to countries like Ethiopia, Cameroon , Canada, Libya, Israel South Africa, who have student enrolment of between 100,000 – 400,000 students. The graduates from these vocational schools form your artisan group of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. Malawi is reported to have an enrolment of less than 800 students (even lower than Seychelles a country of 88,000 people).

Robert Hayden was probably right when he said “In God we trust. All others must bring data”. Given the statistics and the opportunities that Malawi has (i.e.
Malawi is already spending too much money per student) where should our priorities be? I believe that our priority should be in tackling two issues. First, at a stroke of a pen, initially increasing University enrolment at least threefold (from 4500 to 13,000) and increasing vocational enrolment to 10,000 in the next 5 years. This is still small considering that you have 50,000 students finishing form 4 every year. But the change would mean that the University can absorb more that (80-90%) of MSCE qualifying students (currently the figure is only 25%). This will require a complete change in university financing system including amount of tuition and fees students will be expected to pay. All logistics of managing University will have to be contracted out and University should no longer be involved in providing accommodation, food etc. University’s role should only be teaching. Providers of accommodation will only guarantee campus space to first year students. From second year, students should, at their expense (others will get scholarships) stay outside campus. The change however should ensure disadvantaged students and those from social and economically deprived families have access to government scholarships.

Secondly, Government will have to review capacities of schools that have been producing poor results and schools in disadvantaged areas. Deliberate policy should be made to direct public investment into these areas to capacitate the schools. Probably for the next 5 years, donor support should be directed towards human capacity (i.e. teachers, learning material and lecturers) to support the programme.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Chihoro is Beans: Home Sweet Home

The climax of my holiday was when I realised that I was no longer as young. What made me realise this was whilst driving from Blantyre to Lilongwe, having watched Malawi (Flames) hold Ivory Coast to a one all draw, ahead of me was a Toyota Coaster belonging to University of Malawi. I followed it for a good 5 miles as what I suspect were students, performed all acts of stupidity, as they dangerously leaned out of windows and cars driving on the opposite side swerved to avoid them! I last saw such an act when I was in primary school, going to youth rally at Kamuzu Stadium. How time flies. I overtook and smiled in amusement at these stupid boys who were sons of someone!

The previous day, I was fascinated with the change in Flames supporters. It was all red and colourful. I had a K10, 000 VIP ticket, courtesy of Baba (Gaston Mwenelupembe). I was impressed that the tickets had numbers, meaning I had a seat as per my ticket. Indeed I had a seat, but, two fat guys next to me had two ticketless children aged probably 10 and 11 and we were supposed to share the seat! “Madala tingopanga squeeze ndi mafanawa, nanga tiamane chikopa? (Sir, let the five of us just share these three seats so that we do not deny the kids entertainment!) My foot, I was sweating and heating up inside. I decided to act the Malawi way and share, in case I was told I had exhausted our quota! Please FAM and Sports Council, either tickets are sold matched with chairs, or let us go back to old system where even with a ticket you were not assured of chair. I nevertheless enjoyed the match having shared my K10, 000 ndi mafana. But we can improve on the noise. I loved the boooooooo on Drogba and “DROGBA WHO? Poster!

I drove to Lusaka during the time I was in Malawi. I dreaded the journey because of the famous potholes on the road (especially between Sinda and Petauke), which I knew inside-out during my 5 years living in Lusaka. To my surprise, I never stumbled into a single pothole throughout my journey. Thanks to RB (President Rupiah Banda). I understand his young wife has business in Eastern province. It was great to enjoy Mosi once again at Times Cafe and Car wash.

What would a trip to Malawi be without Chihoro village? I had to drive Mpatsa 7 as Gorodi is still as it has always been. Maybe now with Quota policy, the road would be upgraded to bitumen standard. Apart from dust and fact that we had funeral in family, Chihoro was fun. But I was disappointed that we had no beans at the village. For me no beans, no relish! Whatever happened to this policy of beans beans beans? I forgot to ask my Dad whether this was due to quota policy! I did a bit of tour and Homestead (primary school) still had those grass-thatched pit latrines and vyungu - still flourishing with green maize. The numbers of folks at Chihoro have diminished over the years and wonder what the village will be left of in the next 20 years.

Driving back, we stopped at Phwezi. The previous day Four Form students had run amok and had been expelled from school. They were only to come and write their exams the following week. I looked at infrastructure at Phwezi and felt sad that boys still bath at the river, the buildings were still as pathetic and the food being served was, to say the least, undesirable. I had a chat with students who will be our leaders of tomorrow. Maybe it is time owners of Phwezi sat back and make a decision to give students not only good education, but good learning environment.

Meeting Kalenga Jere at Diplomats was my highlight of my trip. He had flown all the way from Solomon Islands to go attend “Lake of Stars”. Having had my phone stolen at Diplomats that night, it was time to bid farewell to Malawi. It was not to be. As I pushed a trolley of ufa, beans, rice, matemba and my little bag at Kamuzu International Airport, I noticed there was no one at the SA check-in counter. I asked someone when the counter would be opened. He looked at me and said, Madala, zitseko zandege atseka. Mwachedwa. (You are late, the flight is about to take off!) You must be kidding, I said. This is 1pm, the flight is supposed to leave at 2.55pm. “That is the old timetable. From October 1, SA leaves at 1pm from Lilongwe to Johannesburg. Just wait for the Mai Wandawanda, she will help you!” Never forget that lesson. In Malawi, always reconfirm your flight irrespective of what your Azungu agents tell you. I looked at my ufa and matemba bag and called a number. Come back and pick me up. Flight has left. Well, had I flown that day, I would not have had the chance to meet DAIRE KUMWENDA the next Thursday and hear his views about the Quota policy. That was 15 October.

Having swallowed fansidar on 18 October, I can happily join John Kauta today 25 October in Brunei for yet another BBQ and a couple of beers despite the fact that Brunei is a dry country.

Quota Policy

I arrived in anticipation, a cold Carlsberg green, after years of drinking lousy English beers. I thought it was a joke, but I noticed the shabby looking guy was damn serious. “Your ID sir” he said whilst chewing and blowing the gum. The only ID I had on me was my driver’s licence. “Ahhhh, Mkandawire”! He said. “I am sorry but your quota is filled up. Try the next pub. Most of you do not go there”, he mused. “What do you mean quota is filled up?” I queried. He took his register and starting going through the list. Munthali, Nyirenda, 4 Mwaungulus, 2 Kasambalas, 2 Matiyas 3Singanos, Nundwes, 6 Bandas but 4 from the kukaya. You know Manchester United is playing today and your friends rushed to ensure they fill up the quota. “But Matiya and Singano...... Before I finished, the bouncer said, “I know, but we know that they never paid lobola, so they are both Mkamwinis in Mbalachanda! I was lost!

I left still confused and headed for “Peoples” and buy my Green and with fewer “breath gadgets” during the day, drunk my cold beer whilst driving. I decided to visit my friend and was sure that I would be able to watch the match with him. As I arrived, the watchman opened the gate for me. My friend greeted me warmly and ushered me into his home and his children were watching cartoon network. “Welcome back home”, he said. I know you are a Liverpool fan, but unfortunately, you cannot watch the match today because I exhausted my TV quota for this week. He said a colleague would keep him updated on scores. When I asked him why we cannot go and watch the match at the hotel, he told me that he had exhausted his “out of home” quota and he was stuck till the following week. “What is this quota business?” I asked and told him how I was kept out at the club.

He told me that Government was implementing a Quota policy and it had to be strictly observed. He indicated that the new ID card has made it possible to implement the quota. For example a quota will now be implemented in tobacco and cotton growing, foreign exchange allocation, international football matches, booking hotel rooms, passports, drivers licence, owning retail shops, buying of vehicles, international travel etc. If the trend does not change, quota will be extended to “red light streets” as it seems it is dominated by people from one area and this is not equitable distribution of income. “What about market vendors?” Well, he said. That has already been implemented, including fish mongers, tailors, sumagulalas etc. “What is sumagulalas? I asked. Ohh that. These are people that carry things on their heads across borders. You mean Smugglers? I mused?

He told me that quota was good for the country and homes. It brought stability and unity. Imagine a situation with no diversification in red light streets! It would be boring, no? He told me that I had to understand principles of economics. When there is scarcity, resources have to be shared. I asked him whether we had run out of ideas on how to increase the resources. He told me that was not the point. Don’t you understand that when supply increases, prices go down? You have to keep demand always high and supply low. That is the only way you can yield power and control the market. I asked him whether that was not legitimising sharing of poverty and whether it was fair to deny those life fish mongers and tobacco farmers to pursue their dream by curtailing their numbers, when all they knew is that trade? He said, the idea was that fish mongers would also now try to grow tobacco and tailors should attempt to become teachers and those book- worms should dirty their hands by catching fish or growing tobacco. It is called Diversification and Equity. I got more confused!

When I asked for another green, he told me that unfortunately, I had exceeded my quota for the day. I left for my humble home and wondered whether my wife would not impose a quota restriction when I arrived home!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

You know you are in Vanuatu when........ watch and listen to string bands....
A small Island in Vanuatu called Emau produces some of the best Vanuatu string bands. Watch at:

String Bands are popular in Vanuatu. Apart from String Bands in Emau island, you have several strings bands in almost all the villages in Vanuatu. The String Band style comes from Polynesia. It came to Vanuatu towards the end of World War II, when the archipelago was still jointly ruled by France and Britain (1906-1980).

The musicians play string instruments (box guitars, ukuleles, one-string bass (Babatoni)) and percussion (drums or tambourine). The songs are sung by a single person or by the whole band in chorus. The theme of their songs, range from politics, economic, social, and developmental aspects of life. The songs are in Bislama (the everyday language of Vanuatu), in English, French or one of the regional languages. It is now common to find Christian songs or international pieces especially I found Lucky Dube’s songs quite popular.

As you land at the airport in Port Vila, you will find the songs of the “Airport” string band quite refreshening after hours of flying.

When I visited a holiday resort in Efate (main island where you find Port Vila), I watched a 2-man string band. I failed to convince the man playing the babatoni that he can use his foot as well, rather than just using the hands (like late Michael Yekha). He laughed it off, I guess being less of a musician, I failed to use the right vocabulary for him to see sense. I nevertheless enjoyed the music though after listening to one, you have listened to all.

Interestingly, I never found a string band at any of the kava bars! I wonder.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Watipaso Mkandawire of Chihoro Village: Vanuatu Kava

Watipaso Mkandawire of Chihoro Village: Vanuatu Kava

Vanuatu Kava

Visiting Vanuatu is always an experience worth narrating. I start with kava.
Kava has a long history in Vanuatu, and its use can be radically different from island to island. For many of the islands, kava is considered a sexually charged drink, and women are forbidden from drinking it. Kava is consumed in various ways throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures.

Traditionally it is prepared by either, chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant. The ground root/bark is combined with only a little water, as the fresh root releases moisture during grinding. Pounding is done in a large stone with a small log. The product is then added to cold water and consumed as quickly as possible.

The kava I consumed was ground by hand using a piece of coral and a kava board to catch the ground kava root. In Vanuatu kava is drank in a specific order and if there are any special guests present as was the case with me, they are given the honor of consuming the first shell of kava and I simply said, Tankyu, tumas.

I noted a couple of things as I consumed kava at a kava bar on a Friday afternoon after my busy day of meetings. First kava makes you salivate and no wonder everyone was spitting. At the same time, traditionally, kava owners may feel offended if you do not spit because it might mean their kava is not as strong. So, Skiusmi (Excuse me) there I was spitting!

Having drunk the kava I found an interesting story on the net.

Traditional Vanuatu Kava Recipe
• Gather kava roots from field.
• Return back to the village with whole kava root bundle.
• Use machete to cut into more manageable pieces.
• Give the virgins of the village the kava for them to chew up and spit out.

This is a process called mastication. This is done because there are no machines or grinders. Also the virgins are the only ones with teeth due to lack of proper dental hygiene.

• The piles of masticated kava are then soaked in coconut or rain water for a period inside of a Tanoa.
• Strain the mixture through coco fibers into a coconut shell.
• Drink warm.

Having drunk the kava and experienced what people who drink kava experience, I was not sure whether I was drunk, or the opposite, but certainly I felt funny, so did my TV in the room. That was my Gudnaet! This was not my first time to drink kava, but certainly compared to the Fiji kava, this was the most potent and effective. I wonder who chewed and spat the kava before this preparation! I certainly prefer Vanuatu Tusker!

But hey, morning later, I gud nomo! That is Vanuatu kava for you

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Witch in the Village- Humphreys Mvula

Gilbert Katemecha was my class captain in Class 4N (1981) at Chichiri Secondary School in Blantyre. He came from Likoma Island (Kaka) and had a head for Mathematics. Somehow, the system was unfair with him because he never went to University despite that brilliant maths head. I am not sure where he is now. I was very noisy in class and though School prefect, I would always appear on list of noise makers compiled by one Katemecha. I recall one day, down with Malaria, and dozing on my desk, the class was as usual noisy and Katemecha joined in the discussion. Our Headmaster, Mr Mulagha (RIP) walked in and in his usual flamboyant voice with Chitipa/tumbuka accent, he said; “Katemecha, Who was making noise?” Katemecha, stood up, and since he had not written a list of noise makers, he grinned and said, “Watipaso”, (and everyone burst out laughing knowing that I had slept throughout). I was nevertheless punished that day.

This incident taught me that when you have a history behind you, you are vulnerable. This is true in villages where you are suspected of being a witch. Any unexplained death, the witch becomes the first suspect.

It is alleged that Humphrey Mvula was the mastermind of 2004 rigging. No one has proved this. Over the years, many people have whispered on the role Humphreys played. But in a democratic country, innocent until proven guilty is what we believe in. I am writing this article with tongue in cheek as I know Humphreys Mvula and he is a person that during my troubled times in Malawi as CEO of MIPA, would always give me professional advice. I would read his advice between lines, and the message always seemed to be that I was being viewed by “the powers” as not being politically correct. I still value his advice.

I was however not surprised when news came up that Humphreys had been locked up on suspicion of having a parallel tallying centre.

Looking back, it is alleged that the reason why President Kibaki in Kenya had hurriedly organised a quick swearing in ceremony was because he was shocked that the opposition (Raila) had also rigged and they (Orange Party) did a better job that he (Kibaki) was trailing badly in the votes. This has never been proven.

Perhaps realising that opposition can also rig, and realising that there is a “James Bond” amongst the opposition in Malawi, I would suspect that the arrest of Humphreys Mvula was more preventative than Police having full evidence of the alleged crime. Being miles away, I can only assume. I hope I am right and that Humphreys will walk free.

In Malawi, we have witty and intelligent Malawians. Humphreys is one of them. I had the privilege of interviewing him in mid 1990s for post of Executive Director of National Sports Council. I was at that time Board member of Malawi National Sports Council and Chairman of Appointments Committee. He never got the job, though he was impressive.

The challenge in our country is utilising these intelligent Malawians for the benefit of the country. When we treat them as criminals, criminals they will be. It is not easy, but it can be done.

The “Witch” was made in God’s image and he is useful. Together we will build.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Yellow Farm

One Journalist early this year reflected on how God hardened the heart of Pharaoh as Moses asked him to “let his people go”. God brought many calamities to Egypt and its people such as rats, drought, insects, including killing all the first born sons. It seems we read these bible stories as fiction instead of learning from these incidences and asking God to give us the ability to listen.

As DPP and Bingu are ushered into Government, I think the biggest loser in this whole election is the UDF. Despite the fact that it is what I would call a Party of a “Landlord and Tenants”, UDF had built a formidable organisation and had style, glamour and splendour when it came to campaigns. The spicing of the events by Lucius Soldier Banda and before that the “Tanzania troops” was not something one could ignore. Without realising, even if you were not a fan of the Party, you would sing along and dance to the famous “Yellow” song. The Party brought in intellectuals who in all fairness were level-headed and many times believed that they could change face of Malawi for the better.

Unfortunately, the landlord could not allow the tenants to be part of decisions in determining the future of the farm. The landlord always decided what to plant, how many acres, what fertiliser to use, where to source all inputs, which market to sell the crop, and who gets paid and who starves. The landlord would also decide whether the tenants would work on that farm that year, or they would be sent to another farm, or indeed bring in new temporary tenants. In silence and praise the bowed and kissed the landlord’s feet.

The “Yellow farm” is now reaping what they sowed. For a Party of UDF’s magnitude and infrastructure, the envisaged number of seats that they are expected to win calls for a long hard look on the way forward. The obvious one is for the Chairman to step down and let the remnants map way forward. There is a lot to salvage and I am sure with “Yellow” in the heart of people like Brown Mpinganjira, (aka BJ), Jumbe, Mtafu and perhaps Chilumpha, the Party can be revamped. They should learn from the miserable destruction of AFORD, for which the “landlord” played a part.
Muluzi builds and destroys. He deserves a Statue in Malawi for many people will look back and ask? How did one Bakili Muluzi manage to toy around with our lives and destiny whilst we watched? Well God did harden his heart and he became Malawi’s Pharaoh

I wish UDF all the best in rebuilding the party. Democracy can only thrive in Malawi with strong competition and co-operation.